Dan Mask, Liberia, 1950's
34 x 20 x 9 in
SKU: 2153d
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The border between Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia cuts across several ethnic groups, including the Dan, Wee, Kran, and Grebo. In Dan society, dangerous immaterial forest spirits are translated into the forms of human face masks. Whether or not they are worn, such sculptures are spiritually charged. Male performers, gle-zo, experience a dream sent by the mask spirit that allows them to dance it. In performance, the masks are integrated into the hierarchical system that governs political and religious life.

Dan masks have been documented as the embodiment of at least a dozen artistic personalities. Among these are Deangle, who ventures into the village from the initiation camps to ask women for food; Tankagle and Bagle, who entertain through a range of aesthetically pleasing dances, skits, and mimes; Bugle, who historically leads men into battle; and Gunyege, whose mask is worn by a community's champion foot racers in competitions. The present example might be identified as Gunyege; once they are divorced from their performance contexts, however, mask forms are difficult to identify.

Description via the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York